By Shimon Z. Klein

On November 29, 1947 the UN General Assembly voted 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions, in favour of the Partition Plan, while adjusting the boundaries between the two states proposed by it. On May 14, 1948, the British Mandate over a Palestine expired. On the same day, the Jewish People’s Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum, and approved the following proclamation, declaring the establishment of the State of Israel. The new state was recognized that night by the United States and three days later by the USSR. Since then, Israel had an existential problem with her Arab neighbours. War was declared and this created the Palestinian refugee problem which still exists to this day.

Over the years, the Arab countries declared wars on Israel with the purpose of wiping Israel off the face of the earth. Each war created further problems for both combatants even though Israel had won these wars.
After the Six Day War of June 1967, Israel had occupied the West Bank, Golan Heights, Gaza strip and East Jerusalem because of its astounding victory over Egypt and its allies. This war was foisted onto Israel by President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. Israel destroyed the Egyptian Air Force within the first few hours. Forty years later, Israel is still condemned for occupying the territories in 1967 and not returning them to the Palestinians. People forget that Israel never had the occupied territories prior to the June War of 1967. Nevertheless, the Arab states under Egypt’s lead still wished to destroy Israel.
Now forty years later, discussions are being held about boycotting Israel’s universities in Britain because of Israel’s unwillingness to end the occupation.
According to the Education Guardian 30th May 2007, “University lecturers today threatened to provoke international condemnation over academic freedom by forcing their union into a year-long debate over boycotting work with Israeli universities.
Delegates at the first conference of the new University and College Union in Bournemouth voted by more than three to two to recommend boycotts in protest at Israel’s “40-year occupation” of Palestinian land and to condemn the “complicity” of Israeli academics.
The conference motion said there should be “a comprehensive and consistent boycott” of all Israeli academic institutions, as called for by Palestinian trade unions.”
Today, Israel is viewed as an occupying power. This is natural despite the reasons for the occupation. The Palestinians are the victims of Israeli occupation. The reasons for the occupation are well known. However, it is difficult for Israel to maintain that it does not wish to rule over the Palestinians when the facts prove the opposite. How can Israel claim this after having colonized large tracts of Palestinian lands with settlers? Many settlers have built palatial homes for themselves and their families and usurped Palestinian lands. Is this not colonization? New settlements in the occupied territories are increasing at a rapid rate despite Israel’s claims to the contrary. This was even going on after the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. The approval of settlements beyond the green line does make a severe dent in Israel’s credibility in the world. Had Israel not approved of these settlements in occupied Palestinian lands after the Six Day War, the conflict would have been easier to solve. These occupied lands could have been returned to a responsible Palestinian leadership after negotiating a peace treaty before the advent of Hamas and their allies.
Many of us are against the occupation, including many academics in Israeli Universities. However, as much as we would like to see the end of the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state, at this time and place there is no responsible Palestinian leadership with whom to negotiate. Unilateral return of the occupied territories to the Palestinians would create a very dangerous situation which would make the Gaza scenario seem like a sweet dream. There would be total violence which would create a vacuum for war lords and their ilk to fill. A chaotic situation would develop. Al Qaeda splinter groups, Hamas militias, Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa brigades and who knows what else would create violence of great proportions. The victims would be Palestinians as well as Israelis. Qassam rockets would be transported into the West Bank and the main cities of Israel would be threatened. Sderot would be child’s play in comparison to what could happen if the territories are returned without negotiations for a peace treaty.
Support for boycotting Israeli Academic institutions and sanctions against Israel is hypocritical and shows total ignorance of the severe security problems Israel faces from extremist terrorist groups operating in the territories. The Palestinian people are suffering under the occupation. The humiliation of many innocent Palestinians at checkpoints as well as the economic hardships that they face is a severe tragedy. However, much Palestinian suffering has been caused by the Palestinian leadership, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They are relentless in their terrorist, suicide bombings of innocent Israelis and they must be held accountable for much of Palestinian suffering. How can we negotiate peace with them when they wish to drive us into the sea and refuse to negotiate? They prolong Palestinian suffering by their actions and blame Israel for it by misleading their people with facts that are untrue.
If one were to read the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural boycott of Israel, one realizes how hypocritical this is. It is filled with double standards concerning academic freedom. Is there cultural and academic freedom in the Palestinian areas not to mention the Arab world at large? Is there academic and cultural freedom in Iran? It is a matter of those living in glass houses throwing many stones.
I was a student in apartheid South Africa and the institutions of learning were segregated. There was no academic freedom there at all. There were universities for blacks whose standard was inferior to the white universities. We opposed segregated universities and fought for academic freedom free from racial discrimination. We demonstrated in the streets demanding academic freedom. The white government of South Africa did everything in its power to deny blacks a university education. Many of our student leaders were arrested and held for questioning by the white apartheid police. We even supported world economic boycotts and sanctions against South Africa for its racist practices.
In Israel, universities are open to all students irrespective of their race, colour and creed. There are Arab professors and lecturers teaching students and they are part of the university staff with equal status to their Jewish colleagues. Is this the case in universities such as Bir Zeit in Ramallah and other universities in neighbouring Arab countries? 
SPME (Scholars for Peace in the Middle East) condemns this action, instigated by a small group of anti-Israel union delegates who appear not to represent the views of the union membership and who have singled out Israel for opprobrium. The motion is an attempt to delegitimize and to silence the only Jewish state in the world, one of a tiny minority of states in the Middle East that truly honor academic freedom. In Israel’s prestigious universities, faculty members represent all religious and political persuasions. Many Israeli professors are Arabs; many are Muslims. How many professors at universities in Arab countries are Jews? How many are non-Muslims? How many belong to non-dominant Muslim denominations?

In Iran, professors have been purged from universities for ideological and religious reasons, and an American academic, Haleh Esfandiari, was recently imprisoned while visiting her 93-year-old mother. Despite the gargantuan scale of human rights abuses in Sudan, Syria, China, Saudi Arabia, and, yes, Gaza, the UCU is not considering a boycott against any of them. Where are the self-righteous human activists? Why are they not protesting against the lack of academic and cultural freedom in these countries?

The proposed boycott is immoral and antithetical to academic principles. It shuts off dialogue, when one of the key purposes of universities is to promote dialogue and thereby the pursuit of truth. It ignores existing projects where Israeli and Palestinian academics cooperate. It requires academics to hew to one ideological line. And it constitutes discrimination based on nationality.
Surely these countries are practicing academic apartheid when they refuse to employ Jewish lecturers as well as other non-Moslems.  One can blame Israel for human rights infringements because of the occupation, but this is not the case in Israel academia or in any of the social and health services available in Israel.
If those, who wish to boycott Israel, were threatened by Hamas and Hezbollah terror and had their homes blown up by Qassams and Katyushas, would they still ignore terror?  
Now South Africa is also jumping the band wagon of boycotting Israel economically.
According to a report in Haaretz, 31st May 2007, South Africa’s largest trade union federation will launch a campaign against “the Israeli occupation of Arab lands” this week, demanding that Pretoria impose a boycott on all Israeli goods and break diplomatic relations. South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils, who is Jewish, told Haaretz that he actively supported the initiative – which contradicts the policy of his own cabinet.

The president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), Willy Madisha, announced the launching of the campaign last week in Johannesburg, calling on the government to cease all diplomatic relations with Israel after its attacks on Palestinian leaders.

“The best way to have Israel comply with United Nations resolutions is to pressure it by a diplomatic boycott such as the one imposed on apartheid South Africa,” Madisha said. Cosatu belongs to a recently-formed coalition of organizations operating under the banner “End the Occupation.”
The majority of South African citizens was against apartheid and wanted to be part of a multiracial South Africa. The leaders of the liberation movements never spoke of destroying the white man and denying him rights in South Africa. Their fight was a justified fight for freedom and human rights as well as equality before the law.
If one were to contrast that with the situation in the Middle East, it is different. Israel’s Arab neighbours threatened her from the day of her establishment in 1948. There was never a desire to recognise Israel’s right to exist. What has this to do with South African style apartheid? Where is the comparison?
The blacks in their liberation struggle never targeted innocent people by suicide bombings or terror. There were sporadic incidents by some black extremists, but the mainstream liberation movements in South Africa went underground. Their leaders, who were living in exile, condemned this violence. This feeling of mutual desire to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is lacking. The Palestinians have embarked on the road of terror and suicide bombings. This is their chosen path. It differs from the path that the freedom fighters in South Africa chose. Here there is no desire to come to terms with Israel’s existence that was always a “thorn” in Palestinian flesh. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have made this perfectly clear to the world. Their manifesto is no example in building an alternative democratic Palestinian society in a state replacing Israel.
Is there not a similarity to Nazism in the Hamas manifesto?
Many Palestinian observers in the UN Security council accuse Israel of genocide. Is the Hamas Manifesto not promoting genocide of the Jewish People? Compare this to the ideals of those who opposed and fought the cruel racist regime of White South Africa during those evil, apartheid years. Their fight was a fight to attain equality for all South Africans irrespective of their skin colour. This is not the case in the Israel-Palestinian dispute. Here there is no desire in Palestinian street, as represented by Hamas and company, to come to terms with Israel’s existence – let alone negotiate a peace treaty, which would eventually lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Genocide is more part of the lexicon of the Palestinian terrorist groups than in Israel.

Perhaps from this point of view, there is a similarity between the Palestinians and the dominating whites of apartheid South Africa. Both peoples oppressed their citizens and denied them basic human rights. Both regimes were corrupt and were involved in feathering their own nests.


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